The world changed very quickly in 2020. Whilst working from home has its benefits, a loss of routine can be unsettling, negatively impacting many of us around the world. For women with children, we are also tasked with home-schooling, facing days and weeks at home whilst maintaining our families and careers. Missing out on seeing co-workers, family and friends can leave us feeling isolated and alone. For many of us, our emotional states range from panic, to boredom, to stress, to loneliness, and back again almost every day. As humans, we are resilient, but we are social creatures, and social distancing takes its toll on wellbeing and mental health.
Human resources and wellness-at-work professionals know that happy employees are effective. Conversely, toxic environments lead to unproductive practices and detrimental business results. So, what do we do when the toxicity is bigger than an unprofessional colleague or challenging client? From healthy habits which ease stress, to practical tools to ensure that teams feel connected, companies are considering the mental welleing of employees more than ever before.
First, we know that companies need to empower their workforce to “be okay with not being okay”. Leaders need to be proactive, inclusive, open, values-led, and well-informed, both about the evolving situation relating to COVID-19 and how this impacts the workforce. Uncertainty is one of the most common cited reasons for stress and anxiety. Whilst “the situation” is nuanced and is changing very rapidly, employers should provide clear guidelines about expectations and support during this time. Corporations should avoid blame-culture mentality and be sensitive to the stresses of its employees during the pandemic that is COVID-19.
The circumstances prompting a global discussion about mental health are beyond our control. To be constructive, employers should share psychological support to alleviate the effects of stress. Regular one-to-ones, flexible video conferences to fit around home-schooling, and encouraging healthy behaviours. As employees, we must take accountability for our own mental health, ensuring a rigorous self-care regime that enables us to be at our best, at home and in our careers.
Top five tips for maintaining mental wellness
- Stay connected
- Reach out to colleagues and friends. Determine your trusted network and share your feelings of anxiety, if you feel them. If negative feelings persist, make contact with a mental health professional. There is absolutely no shame in seeking support for your health.
- Stay in the present
- When worrying about the past or future, remind yourself to return to the present moment. You can do this by “grounding”, by following guided meditations, or focusing on your breath.
- Get outside
- Whilst maintaining guidelines relating to quarantine, getting some vitamin D, fresh air, and a walk in nature can have a positive impact on physical and mental well-being.
- Stay aware
- Do what you can to retain safe, whilst maintaining awareness of your isolation. Watch out for warning sigs that you are isolating because of a decline in your mood.
- Stay practical
- We’re all in this together, and there will be an impact for us all. There are facets of life we cannot change. By focusing on the behaviours we can change, such as kindness, we can reduce the impact of stress from loss of control.